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SOUTH PARK (KDKA) — It took several years to pass, but the South Park School District will offer full-day kindergarten next year.
South Park School leaders say there will be six full-day kindergarten classes next year and new teachers will be hired. That might mean extra costs, but the district will be saving by eliminating midday busing.
There was resistance from some parents who may have felt their child wasn’t ready for full-day kindergarten, so on Friday, South Park leaders offered a look at what full-day kindergarten will look like.
Students were out of their seats and into the hall for a fun-based demonstration on oral care at South Park Elementary. Schools leaders say they are learning through experience.
“Children at that age are capable of learning an incredible amount of information, especially at the youngest ages,” South Park School District Superintendent Dr. Wayne Godvic said.
The superintendent and principal have been advocating for full-day kindergarten to expose children to learning in different forms, something they’ll have time for now.
“They’re now going to get a whole 40 minutes of music, art, gym, technology and library,” South Park Elementary Principal Dr. Rob Furman said.
Governor Tom Wolf is also calling for studying statewide full-day kindergarten as well. The state standards for young learners have changed considerably.
“What you and I did in first and second grade, we’re expecting the kids to do in kindergarten now,” Furman said.
For example, in just over 10 years, math standards from the Pennsylvania Department of Education have changed dramatically. In 2007, children were expected to know basic coins and shapes, but in 2018, they were expected to know more advanced principles of geometry.
“We begin to assess students very early in school and what the goal of those assessments are is to find students who are at risk. At risk academically and at risk socially and behaviorally,” Dr. Arleen Wheat, from Point Park University, said.
Wheat says it’s about risk assessment for children. Kindergarten is the time for intervention, and programs can be tailored to meet the individual needs of students, as they did when she was in a rural school district.
“Our full-day kindergarten focused on those students who scored below the 40th percentile in reading and mathematics,” Wheat said.
In South Park, the whole child is top of mind intermingled with lots of fun — like when Principal Furman kissed a donkey Friday.
The principal kissed the donkey as a reward for students meeting a fundraising goal of $12,000 for programs that full-day kindergarten students will be able to participate in now because they’ll be at school.
School leaders say it’s about how often kids are exposed to printed material. If they need more print time, being in school longer can help better prepare them.